Conservatives Must Demand Spending Controls in Exchange for Raising Debt Ceiling

By Patrick Tyrrell, Research Coordinator in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Free Markets and Regulatory Reform & Anthony B. Kim, Deputy Chief of Staff and Editor of the Index of Economic Freedom at The Heritage Foundation

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has indicated that the federal borrowing limit must be raised by Sept. 29, or the U.S. could run out of money to pay its bills.

Congress, which controls the purse strings of the U.S. government, should not abdicate that authority by writing Mnuchin a blank check and getting nothing in return for American taxpayers.

Any increase in the debt limit should be tied to spending controls. It is the American taxpayers whose money Congress is authorizing to be spent.

Increasingly it is American children, or those not yet born, who will be burdened with the federal debt. They will owe America’s lenders unfathomable amounts of money because of Congress’ irresponsible spending.

Today, the federal debt stands just shy of $20 trillion. That is $1 trillion more than gross domestic product was in 2016.

That means if the total value of all finished goods and services produced in the U.S. in 2016 went to pay down the national debt—an impossible scenario because it would leave nothing left to pay for shelter, food, or clothing—the debt would still be there.

Running up a mountain of debt means America’s children will be less economically free than their parents, since a large portion of their future earnings will be spent on servicing the interest on the debt instead of remaining in their hands, where they can use it to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

That is why Congress must insist on tying any increase in the debt limit to spending controls.

Mnuchin is requesting what he calls a “clean” debt ceiling bill, passed with no strings attached. But what is clean about shackling the youngest among us with a debt bigger than they can understand? One of the statistical measures in The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom is the “fiscal health” of a country. It measures the debt burden that a country carries.

The United States’ fiscal health score in the 2017 index is 53.3 out of 100. To put that into perspective, 132 countries in the 2017 index have higher fiscal health scores than the U.S. does. Only 52 countries have poorer fiscal health scores than the U.S.

America is rightly known as the “Land of the Free,” but the debt that Congress has been piling on the shoulders of the American people makes us less free.

Congress should insist on substantial spending controls in exchange for more deficit spending, with the goal being to achieve a balanced federal budget within 10 years.

*Originally published in The Daily Signal, click here.

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